Thursday, 23 December 2010

Motorcycle accidents in the media: Part 24

A sense of inevitable horror lead me to search and, guess what?

There has been at least one 24-cylinder motorbike made.

It has 24 chainsaw engines, was built by their manufacturer as an advertising stunt, basically, and apparently they all have to be pull started.

I almost wish I didn't know that.

At the other end of the scale, we have two stories concerning the same scooter.

From ABC: Scooter road rage driver loses appeal (December 8).

First of all, that headline is ambiguous about whether the scooter was the perpetrator or the victim. Yes, it says "driver", but stranger things have been done in the non-specialist media.

The summary is: A "pensioner" (at 50, that surely means either a disability pension or self-funded retiree because he's not yet eligible for the aged pension) chased a former work colleague in his car, shouted death threats and then ran over his scooter three or four times.

For this, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail and that, to a rider, is actually gratifying to see.

The driver argued his sentence was excessive but his appeal was unanimously rejected, and that forces me to ask: If you chase someone while shouting death threats, force them to take evasive action in fear of their life, and then destroy property, what exactly is an "appropriate" sentence?

The article is quite clean and, apart from the headline, unproblematic, but I can guarantee you there will have been riders reading it thinking "Yep, they really are out to get us."

The Courier Mail had a different and more informative take, published on the same day, with Road rage driver ran over man's scooter four times, then exchanges punches.

In this case, "Road rage driver" is clearer, but the entire headline is still too long and the comma is completely misplaced.

As the article points out, the case deals with using a vehicle as a weapon. All vehicles are always potential weapons. More people need to remember that.

There are a lot more details in this story and it is better for them. However, it is not so cleanly written and almost falls into the old "He said... then... then..." tedious-to-read list problem that commonly afflicts court reports where a record of events needs to be reported clear of any editorialising or risk of being held in contempt of court.

There are also some areas where punctuation actually would have been a good idea.

And while we're talking about appropriateness of sentencing, the comments on this article are entertaining as well: "Should have been longer," "Suck it up and deal with it," and the nicely worded "reckless endangerment and childish behaviour have no place in society."

Alas, most articles deal with deaths.

The CM has Motorcyclist killed in Bundaberg (December 9), a startlingly efficient headlines.

He was negotiating a bend on Quay  St (which appears to be straight with a slight curve) when he struck a guard rail and fell down an embankment.

Once again, we have the old nonsense of "his bike lost control and crashed."

I'm also not sure if Bundaberg, which is coastal, is really "central Queensland".

If I'm nitpicking, the third sentence needs the first "and" replaced by a comma.

From the ABC, a two-paragraph story: Man dies in quad bike accident (December 12).

Does that suggest to you that there were four bikes involved in one accident? I'm no expert, but the basic rule of thumb is to hyphenate compound adjectives and "quad bike" is, in this case, the adjective to the noun "accident", meaning "quad-bike accident" would make fractionally more sense.

As rules of thumb go, however, there are always debates ongoing.

I'll avoid arguing whether a quad is a bike.

I will point out that "was thrown from" is perilously close to ascribing intent to the quad, and that "thrown from it and pinned down by the vehicle" is a clumsy sentence construction.

Because that was short, one more:

On December 13 (not a Friday, sadly), after an RSS headline of "Two road deaths in southeast," which is perfectly fine, the Courier Mail give us Crash kills motorcyclist on Pacific Motorway at Pimpama; driver at Helensvale dies after his car leaves suburban road.

A truck, a minibus and a motorbike collided. It's like the start to a bad joke. No indication of how three vehicles came to come together, but it should surprise nobody that the rider died.

The editing in this article is not quite as I would do it, and there's an extra blank line towards the end, something the Mail does fairly regularly. I thought I would have a quick peak at the page source and noticed that HTML for a sidebar had been inserted in the middle of the article text.

I suggest there needs to be some debugging of the website management software.

For the sheer scale of the accident, this article begs out for a follow up.

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